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Modernettes troupe participates in breast cancer public service announcement at Ringgold

| Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, 3:28 p.m.
Riley Evans performs with the Modernettes, an elite baton twirling corps that recently participated in the filming of a public service announcement announcement about breast cancer at Ringgold High School.
Members of the Modernettes, an elite baton twirling corps, were featured in a public service service announcement about breast cancer that was made at Ringgold High School.
The Modernettes, an elite twirling corps, recently that recently participated in the filming of a public service announcement about breast cancer at Ringgold High School, which was directed by John Mitchell (left). Members of the Modernettes include (from left) Emily Hofmeister, Danielle Foirentini, director Sherry Vignoli-Parisi, Riley Evans, Julia Cicchinelli, Lauren Greer and Jennifer Dimit Baldacci of Jen's Academy.

Global breast cancer foundation Susan G. Komen will feature on its website the work of 50 local twirlers who created a public service announcement about the disease, the commercial's director said.

The Modernettes, an elite twirling corps that attracts twirlers from across the region, performed the commercial at Ringgold High School under the direction of California-based John Mitchell, a Penn Hills native and former feature twirler at Penn State University.

Mitchell, the commercial's director and executive producer, created the idea and vision for the video as a part of his initiative for “purposeful twirling.” He selected the Modernettes for the project after the troupe won a world twirling championship.

“This is a new way in which to be able to showcase baton twirling and show that it can be meaningful, and it can have purpose to it,” he said.

Mitchell said his mother, herself a former high school majorette, battled breast cancer and is doing well now.

“For me, it became a personal campaign for my mother and just wanting to do something. It quickly led into realizing that this is a thing that just happens to so many people all across the country,” Mitchell said. “It became almost pretty much a mission of wanting to not only get the awareness out there but to figure out how can I be a part of making a cure happen.”

During the video, which is posted on YouTube, the performers wear pink costumes while facts, such as “one in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer,” scroll across the screen. The commercial also includes advice to “get screened” and “get mammograms.”

The Komen foundation intends to post the video on its website, Mitchell said, and he's currently working on distribution and licensing of the film. For that, he said, fundraising is necessary.

Mitchell said he wrote the script to include a twirling flash mob, and Modernettes Director Sherry Vignoli-Parisi choreographed it with a “Modernette spin on it.”

“It was wonderful for them to donate their time to such a worthy cause,” Vignoli-Parisi said.

Modernettes members hail from schools such as Ringgold School District, Yough School District, Charleroi Area School District and as far away as West Virginia and Ohio.

The twirling troupe has performed in national contests and eight world championships, earning seven gold medals, Vignoli-Parisi said. At the most recent world contest held in Switzerland in 2012, the team won a gold medal in both the twirling championship and pom-pom championship.

They'll attend the national championships in 2014, and if they win, would advance to the world championships in Italy.

At competitions, the Modernettes are judged on twirling, dance, general effect, marching and maneuvering.

The national competition features “Twirling for the Cure” and a breast cancer awareness day, Mitchell said.

Maureen Ott, a school board member at Ringgold School District in Carroll Township, helped secure the facilities to house the day of filming in late September.

Twirlers practiced the commercial for nine hours, then family members of the Modernettes crowded into the high school auditorium to watch the performance.

“I thought it was good for them to do something like this for other people,” Maureen Ott said. “Hopefully (it will) bring awareness and fundraise for an important cause.”

Ott's daughter Sarah, an eighth-grader at Ringgold Middle School, participated in the public service announcement.

“It was amazing to know that we could help out people,” Sarah Ott said. “And we just had do it by doing what we love to do, which is twirling.”

Rossilynne Skena is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6646 or

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